|"The Scream" by Edvard Munch|
Monday, August 3, 2015
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
It’s been about 2 weeks since returning home from our winter trip to Ethiopia, and I continue to wonder if I’ll have the words to express my perception of the trip. Since being back home, my mind has been all over the place. I have a desire to follow up on our trip, and this is for me as well as for my team and the people we served in Ethiopia. As I’ve been processing this and seeking words to describe it, I’ve also had to take care of myself. As a trip leader, and a wife, and a mother, it’s so hard to put myself first, but pursuing personal strength and wellness is essential for being able to love well and have strong relationships.
That said, just before leaving Ethiopia to return home, I began prepping for a body scan that would help determine the level of progress after last year’s battle with thyroid cancer, thyroidectomy surgery, and radioiodine treatment to kill remaining cancer cells. Prepping for this scan entails a couple weeks of a strict diet, and a handful of daily doctor visits the last days before the scan. During this time, my eyesight has gotten really bad. I became paranoid that it could be because of thyroid related issues or something serious. After visiting the eye doctor and my thyroid doctor, I realized I’m just getting old. Haha! At the end of last week, I got a pair of prescription glasses that have both made me so much more confident with this new ability to see, as well as just aware at how poorly I could see before.
The day I got new glasses was also the day of my body scan, and after the scan, the initial results seemed to be 98% good. They saw a tiny something on the scan where my thyroid once was, and they want to check it out. They wanted to wait til seeing my bloodwork before they decided what to do next. It’s possible that it’s a recurrence of thyroid cancer. However, the spot is so small that even if it is cancerous, they may not do any surgery or treatment, since thyroid cancer usually remains isolated and is slow growing, if it grows at all. People have asked how I feel about this news, and honestly, I don’t know how I feel. I really just want this chapter of my life to be over, so I can start a new, clean chapter. The reality is that this chapter will never be fully over. Since I had cancer, I’ll be at a higher risk of eventually getting it again, compared to people who have never had cancer. I now have to figure out how to live with this part of my story, with hope that cancer won’t return.
Hope is something that I’ve had a really hard time with over the last couple of years. Just when things are going so well, life throws me for a loop. Although I know that I’ve experienced more joy than pain in my life, when I’m in a painful situation, it’s so easy to focus on the damage being done and forget the blessings that I’ve been given. As I reflect back on my trips to Africa, I think about how different our cultures can be when it comes to facing struggles or being blessed. Our perception of hope is so different. The people we have worked with have been through HELL. When I say “hell,” it’s because I cannot imagine anything worse than what they have been through, not even from stories I’ve heard, or movies I’ve seen. They are left physically scarred, but also emotionally scarred. I’m blown away by how these scars contribute to their beauty. When you meet these people, you see so much joy in their eyes, and you wouldn’t imagine that they’ve been through so much. In some cases, one year of their life seems like it is more pain than we’ll ever experience. And after all this, it’s hard to fathom that the hope that you hear in their words. We have so much to learn about how to be grateful, how to trust God, how to have joy, and how to simply have hope.
Two groups of people in Ethiopia teach me about hope: women that have been rescued from a life of prostitution, and young boys who live on the street. In speaking with the women who had been rescued from prostitution, we learned that the need for money drove them to choose such a life. Over 50% of Ethiopians are unemployed. These women are without work, they’re hungry, their children are hungry, they can’t afford medicine, and so they’re family is often sick and dying because of their conditions. Prostitution is their only hope. They wouldn’t do it if they knew some other way. Then you have the street boys. These teenage, homeless boys have either lost their families to AIDS, or they’ve fled the extreme poverty or dangerously abusive situations at home because it’s better for them on the streets. The streets are their only hope. It’s all they have. Because they’re on the streets, local society shuns them, and they don’t expect to get any encouragement from anyone. What kind of life gets to a place where you choose prostitution or living on the street because there is more hope in that than any other option you know? I’m amazed at these women, and these boys, because while I don’t consider them to have anything that I would call a huge “blessing,” they have hope in the simple fact that they are alive.
I’m spoiled. My life has been mostly blessing, and if something interrupts that, I’ve felt like my life is hopeless and coming to an end. It’s ridiculous. Why am I so blind to hope sometimes? Why do I put such a high price on happiness and feeling like I’m blessed? After all, I’m alive… I get to live. In looking back at my time in Africa, I really do feel like God called me there to get closer to understanding the meaning of hope: to see it, experience it, and believe it. After being faced with this reality in others, this decision to have joy and be hopeful, how do I process my struggles? How do I now feel about my body scan test results? It’s easier to be hopeful, to be thankful with the results and feel grateful for the time that is given to me. I’m blessed with so much, and I have hope for a long, beautiful, healthy life with my family and friends. I have hope that I will be celebrating many more years with my friends in Africa. And I’m excited to share my story of hope with others, including my friends in Africa. I aspire to be as encouraging to them as they have been to me.
So, this is me processing things over the last couple of weeks… I feel like I needed to get past some medical struggles, so that I could then more clearly process my time in Ethiopia. I’ll write another blog soon with details from the trip!
Friday, October 15, 2010
I’ve been struggling lately with the term "God is good". I’ve said it many times. I had cancer, now I don’t. God is good. My brother was shot and left for dead, but is now alive and well. God is good. My friend was infertile, but just gave birth to two healthy twins. God is good. I have SO many of these stories that we give all the glory to God for. Lately though, I’ve been dealing with a broken heart from a situation that has really been a burden on me since I was a little girl. A situation that is like a bad plague that just keeps surfacing and that seems to never go away. This has left me feeling really depressed and hopeless even though God has revealed himself SO many times. I have asked myself recently, is God REALLY good? If so, why were we put in the situation in the first place? Why didn’t He just save us from all the heartache in the beginning? Just recently I have realized that He did.
I’m a part of a Bible study that is studying John 17. We are taking one verse at a time each week. This week’s verse is John 17:5.
“So now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world existed.”
This verse reminds me of how we were made perfect in the image of God before we were even conceived and that He has a perfect plan for us. We might get off track from that perfect plan, put He is there to glorify us and to bring us back to His perfect plan. We just have to trust Him and really have a desire to be glorified.
When God brings us out of such hardships He is glorifying us. He is reminding us that life on earth is not perfect, but our home with Him is. Today was such a huge testimony to that.
I have needed to see a special doctor for a while now, but have not pursued it because of the financial stress we have been under due to me having cancer last year. My situation has been unavoidable lately and so I went to the rector of our church Wednesday to see if I can get financial assistance. Father Jerry was very supportive of my situation and wanted to help. He told me to give him a couple of days and he will let me know how the church can help. Today he called me into his office and said he had a miracle story to share with me. He proceeded with some scripture on how God has his angels looking out for us. Last Friday, before I even mentioned anything to Father Jerry about needing help, he had someone come to him that does not know me and Asher, but knows of us, and said they feel led to give “Missy and Asher Wood” a financial gift. Father Jerry didn’t say anything to me Wednesday because the gift was not finalized yet. This morning it was and so Father Jerry called me in to tell me about it. This gift is enough to take care of my bills for my situation as well as all the bills we accrued from the last year of being sick!
So is God REALLY good? I’ll let you decide. J
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I want to share with you all what Asher and I have been called to do this summer and invite you to be a part of it. This summer, our family will be traveling to Ethiopia to spend two months working with a ministry called Mocha Club that supports various ministries in Africa. We are going to focus on working with street kids, orphans, and women that have been rescued from prostitution. Already, we know that this adventure is bigger than just the two of us, and we hope you will be a part of this journey.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND...
For the last few years, we've given a little each month to Mocha Club to support their efforts in Africa. In the summer of 2008, I went on a two week trip to Ethiopia with Mocha Club (click here to see pictures and click here watch video), and it was a life-changing experience for me, for Asher, and for many. Since then, we've wondered how we can be more involved. In April of 2009, we hosted a well attended art exhibition in Nashville where we increased awareness and raised support for Mocha Club to help out street kids and orphans in Ethiopia. My photos and our paintings were instrumental in pointing to some of the powerful personalities and stories happening there. Since I went to Ethiopia in 2008, we have prayed that we could do more to both engage these people there, and also to create tangible ways to share with others who they are.
MEANING IN SUFFERING...
As most of you know, last September, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and in the months that followed, I underwent surgery and an arduous treatment of radiation and rounds of medication. The cancer is gone and so much is given to us in its place. This certainly altered our perspective of Africa. Instead of being deterred, we felt strongly that God was creating new meaning in this suffering, showing us the deep wells of love that we have in our community of family, friends, and even strangers. In Revelation 21, God says, “Behold, I am making all things new,” and it seems clear that we don’t grow older every day, but newer. Life is a gift, and it’s an opportunity to love others and to know Jesus, who is Love. So, even through suffering, especially through suffering, we are drawn even more into showing love to these kids in Africa.
WHILE IN AFRICA...
From late June until late July, we plan to build relationships with orphans and groups that work with orphans, primarily in the capital city of Addis Ababa. We will serve with these groups, and ultimately, we hope to find ways to integrate art into the daily activities of these kids.
From July 28 – August 23, 2010, we will be leading about a dozen Americans on a mission trip. We'll visit and serve various Mocha Club projects in the area:
- Women at Risk: This is a project in Nazaret that rescues women from the growing world of prostitution and offers them a 10-month rehabilitation program including social, personal, and spiritual as well as job training. We'll spend time with these women and hear their stories of how this project has changed their lives. We’ll work with them to teach them trades (like knitting and painting and craftwork) so that they can sell their creations and support themselves.
- Ambo School & Street Boys: We’ll travel to another small town in Ethiopia to visit a church that operates a school for 250 children. We'll also visit a second Mocha Club project supporting the large local street boy population. Our team will organize games/activities and further build the relationship with these boys. We’ll be educating them in various subjects, such as English.
OUR FAMILY AND MELISSA...
In the last few months, our lives have been changed through our friendship with Melissa Kohne. Melissa and I met in 2008, when they were on the same team that went to Ethiopia. When I was in the last stages of recovering from her cancer medication, our need for help with the kids intersected wonderfully with Melissa's desire to move to Nashville. She initially moved here in January to help out for a month or two, to allow me to get much needed rest. And now she feels like part of the family. Her servant's heart is inspiring, and her parallel calling to Ethiopia makes all of this seem much more possible and effective.
WHAT WE ARE DOING TO GET THERE...
- April 24th – I am running the Country Music half marathon and raising support that will go towards our airfare.
- May 20th – Asher and I are showing paintings in a one-night Dallas exhibition, proceeds to go towards our trip to Africa.
- Asher will be offering half-price portraits between now and June 1st.
- I will offer to do family photoshoots for a donation: in Nashville during the month of April, and in North Carolina during the first couple weeks of June.
- We are encouraging our supporters of this ministry, our paintings, and photography to share this cause with others and encourage them to pray for us and even join in these different ways of investing into this journey.
BE A PART OF IT...
- More than anything, we need prayer. Some specific prayer needs are listed below.
- We would love to know that you are praying for us, and we would love to keep you informed of what we are doing so that you can pray specifically for our impact in these communities. Please let us know if we can include you on our email newsletter.
- We are relying strongly on the financial support from our families and friends to make this happen. The cost of our two-month trip is $12,000. 47% of this is the cost of airfare. So, any donations you could give would be greatly appreciated. See below for more information about making a donation. Also, feel free to be a part of giving to this trip through supporting my half-marathon, our art show in Dallas, or even signing up to get portraits or a family photo-shoot.
Thank you all for reading this far! I hope that our story is coming through here, and that this letter is neither a novel, nor a table of contents. I hope you get the gist of what we are working on now and where we are headed. We know that we will be changed by this experience. We hope to create change in these kids and in you. And we hope that you will step forward with us in this journey.
- That we will be daily transformed by the Lord and useful in our calling to everyone we encounter in Ethiopia.
- That we will be inspired by the Lord to creatively translate our experience to our communities outside of Ethiopia.
- Safety for me, Asher, Gaia (age 3), Presley (age 1), and our friend Melissa.
- That we will trust in the Lord to provide for us in every way before, during and after this journey.
- If you would like to attend the art show in Dallas, or would like more information about commissioning a portrait, please email Asher at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 615.483.8611.
- If you would like to schedule a family photoshoot with me, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 615.390.2120.
- If you would like to make a tax deductible donation directly to the mission trip, you can mail a check or donate online:
· To mail your donation, please make out a check to “African Leadership” in the amount that you would like to donate. Include with it a short giving note that includes our names (Asher & Missy Wood). And mail these to: 963 Missions, Attn: Mocha Club Trips, 10440 N. Central Espy., Suite 122, Dallas, TX 75231.
· To donate online, go online to www.mochaclub.org/africa-trips, click on the icon to ‘Make a Donation' for the Ethiopia One Month Trip, and fill out the next page with the necessary information.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I’ve been meaning to blog for a while now, but haven’t had a chance to sit down and get my thoughts together. I was just inspired by a friend's blog on sorrow to write a blog of my own. So I stopped to think about I’ve been doing since I heard the words, “You are cancer-free”.
What have I been doing? I’ve been grieving.
About a week out of isolation, I was reminded by my doctor and also a therapist that my body and soul just had a traumatic experience. That it is going to take time to get my energy back which requires me to rest…a lot. I just rested for 7 straight days in isolation and without my family. Wasn’t that enough? I’m ready to MOVE ON. To be a mom, a wife, a friend. I’m ready to take care of myself and other people. I can’t. Physically and emotionally, I can’t….at least not right now. That is something I thought I would never have to say and it has depressed me to no end. I had in my mind that after radiation this will all be over and I can go on with my life, keep living my dream, and go after new dreams. I was ready and eager. Two days out of isolation I ended up in the ER because I’m NOT ready…my body and soul needs time to recover. Time that is precious to me as I would know.
For the last month I have bathed in the sorrow of the last year. What a crappy crappy year! Although there were some huge blessings from the year (like the birth of my son!!) all I could think about was the horrible things I had to go through. I became very sad and angry. I cried all the time, I was mean to my family, and just wanted to be alone…for days. It was my time to grieve.
“Unlike the rest of painful human experience, grief is the one that heals all the others. It is the most important pain there is. This is why God calls us to enter into it voluntarily. It heals. It restores. It changes things that have gone bad. It is the only place where we get comforted when things have gone wrong. So God tells us, "Go there."
I am so blessed by a family full of grace and understanding. Over the holidays I had a lot of time to rest, to be alone, and to be down in the dumps while at home in NC. My family took care of me and my kids, and just loved me the way I was. I was afraid to go back home to Nashville, where I would be alone with the kids while Asher is at work, and back in our routine. A routine I am not physically or emotionally able to jump back into. On the drive back home, God solved that problem. My cousin flew in the next day to help me for a week and then my dear friend Melissa moved in for the rest of the month to help.
Since I’ve been back home, I’ve been able to reflect on what God has been teaching me through this time of suffering. He has brought out a lot of things in me that I’ve been hiding from. Character flaws so to speak. ;) Things that I have made my new year resolution to overcome. God has given me courage and strength to believe I can overcome these things. Most of all God has taught me patience. I still have a long ways to go to learn how patience works, but I’m ready to embrace it and just take one day at a time.
So, I've been learning to let today take care of itself. I really want to charge headlong into tomorrow and start doing all that I want to do. I want to run the Country Music 1/2 Marathon. I want to plan my next trip to Africa. I want to work on my "project." and while these are all great things, I will wait. I will rest and listen and let the Lord call me to what He has for me.